Thursday, 30 April 2009

Manhattan kaboul

I want to move on from a brief introduction about Renaud and one of his most famous songs, Manhattan kaboul, to talk in more detail about this song. It is a duet with a Belgian singer called Axelle Red. Here are the first two verses. The first is sung by Renaud and the second by Axelle Red.

Petit Portoricain
Bien intégré, quasiment New Yorkais,
Dans mon building tout de verre et d'acier,
Je prend mon job, un rail de coke, un café

Petite fille Afghane,
De l'autre côté de la Terre,
Jamais entendu parler de Manhattan,
mon quotidien c'est la misère et la guerre

There is no s on the end of je prend. Perhaps this indicates that it is sung a little quicker than normal speech. Otherwise I hope this song is not too difficult for you to translate as it has an important message or two. It is written post 9/11. It looks at the reasons behind 9/11 which is almost taboo in England. In the same verse we are challenged to think about our standards. It is worth listening to and translating the whole song.

A bientôt

Wednesday, 29 April 2009


It has been really hard to drag myself away from blogs about Les Choristes. I have recently watched the film and listened to the music again. Music can really motivate learning, so I won't venture too far and I'll write about a musician called Renaud.

I was in the middle of France in a bar and I was talking to a local. I wanted to talk about Renaud, a French singer. I had already spoken to one French woman who had told me that he was un peu impoli. I picked this conversation in the bar because I did not think that it would not be too important to this French man if he were impoli. Learning a language is not just about vocabulary and grammar. It is also about having something to say and if you can interact in French then it is so much easier to do so in English. There is another reason to learn French, which is to improve your English.

I went on to talk about Renaud's song 'Manhattan Kaboul' Even with just a title you have now learned how to say the capital of Afghanistan. With the first line you learn the vocabulary for someone from Puerto Rico. This is not your standard vocabulary but it easy to learn. Have you come across the English word 'quasi' as in quasi-semi'. It means having some reemblance or almost. You can now work out 'quasiment New-Yorkais' and so much of the French language is like this. You just have to practice.

A bientôt

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

The Last Word on Les Choristes

If you read the last two blogs and followed the instructions to watch two clips from 'Les Choristes' then you could well be hooked on all the songs from the film. If you went one step further and watched the film then you also may have enjoyed an emotional story. So what else do I want to say about the film? Well there is one more thing that you can't get just by watching to the film or listening to the music. I want to tell you about Pierre Morhange.

More specifically I want to tell you about the young actor who played the part of Pierre. He is called Jean-Baptiste Maunier and this role was his breakthrough. He was chosen for his looks but he could act. Most importantly he could sing. Often in films the singing is dubbed. Not in this case. His voice is fantastic.

Apologies for no French in this blog, but if you have taken up the advice to listen to the songs and watch the film then your French has improved enough.

A bientôt

Monday, 27 April 2009

Caresse sur l'océan

If the last blog was the best advice that you have ever received then I don't need to introduce you to any of the other songs in the film 'Les Choristes'. If you have not seen the film and have not read the last blog then this one may be written with you in mind. Have a listen to Caresse sur l'océan Here is the first verse.

Caresse sur l'océan
Porte l'oiseau si léger
Revenant des terres enneigées
Air éphémère de l'hiver
Au loin ton écho s'éloigne
Châteaux en Espagne
Vire au vent tournoie déploie tes ailes
Dans l'aube grise du levant
Trouve un chemin vers l'arc-en-ciel
Se découvrira le printemps

I can't think of a better way to learn French. Just beware that spoken French is different in song. Caresse, porte and aube only have one syllable when spoken, but you have done really well if you learn to translate all the lyrics and who knows - you could be joining in with the song in the near future.

A bientôt

Sunday, 26 April 2009

The best advice to learn French

This may be the best advice that you ever receive about learning French. In 2004 a film was produced in France called 'Les Choristes'. The story was great and the music was fantastic. There are so many songs that you should listen to, and if this is the music for you then your vocabulary may increase dramatically, and this will be the best advice for you to learn French. Of course the amount that you learn will depend on how good your vocabulary is already but un peu de répétition n'est pas de problème. Vois sur ton chemin is my favourite so let's take a look at it.

The first verse is:

Vois sur ton chemin
Gamins oubliés égarés
Donne-leur la main
Pour les mener
Vers d'autres lendemains

If you don't have the CD or the DVD then listen to the music and watch the DVD that goes with it on the internet. Listen carefully and you will hear
oubliés 't égarés because there should be an 'et' there which is sung very quickly. I'm not going to translate this verse for you. Do it yourself and enjoy the song. Listen to it three times and your vocabulary has increased. Voilà

A bientôt

Saturday, 25 April 2009

C’est chouette

It’s useful to have a variety of adjectives to say things are good or bad. Chouette is super or smashing. I don’t hear smashing so much in English but chouette est une expression qui est à la mode en France. You can also say c’est formidable or sympa. Sympa is not sympathetic but means nice.

On the other hand if you are fed up you can say j’en ai ras le bol. Ça veut dire je suis fatigué(e) avec exasperation. If you were stuck with the ‘veut dire’ then think how the words literally translate. Vouloir dire is to wish to say. Think about it a little more and to wish to say means ‘to mean’. A final note for today. Je suis (vraiment) epuisé(e) veut dire je suis fatigué(e)

A bientôt

Friday, 24 April 2009

Allez Les Bleus

Why learn French? I have set out many reasons. The French are our near neighbours. French arts, cuture literature and music are all good reasons to learn French. Today I will mention two sports, rugby and football. The first thing to say is that sport football and rugby are all the same words in French. There are lots of other sports that just need to be said with a French accent to communicate in French, but I will stick with these two sports.

Football achieved its high point in 1998 when les bleus won la coupe du monde and it was played in France. I think that was when I learned the French for world cup, and it was certainly the first time I shouted but (sounds like boo in English) when a goal was scored.

Je préfère le rugby. It is a sport that I used to play and I actually understand most of the rules. In football the main rule seems to be do what can you get away with. Whether it is rugby or football les sports sont passionnants. Whether it is football or rugby, the French teams are called les bleus. You can say ‘allez la France’ or 'allez France'. You can also say ‘allez les bleus’.

A bientôt

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Sing French In The Car

I was wondering what to write in today's blog when I was driving and started to sing Maxime le Forestier's song 'Mon Frère’. We can learn French with a teacher. We can learn French by listening to native speakers and the best way to learn French is to live in France. However if you are in northern England it is not always easy to jump on a ferry. What we can do is listen to songs.

How do you say ‘whose fault is it?’ I admit this is not something that we would commonly say but that is the point. You can only learn to speak French if you are taught it or if you hear it, and even better if the person is French. In his song there is a lyric, ‘à qui la faute?’ His lyrics answer this question with ‘pas à mon père, pas à ma mère’. This links with yesterday’s blog in which the ‘ne’ part of the sentence is dropped in speech. In fact we lost the verb as well this time.

Have a listen to Maxime and you may start singing French in the car.

A bientôt

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Il ne fallait pas

You may have come across il faut. They are two nice words to use because they are always followed by the infinitive. Il faut parler français. Il faut aller au marché. You can use these words in so many circumstances. Il faut comes from the verb falloir and means it is necessary. You can translate il faut parler français as it is necessary to speak French or you have to speak French. This is a verb that you only use in the il form so you don’t need to conjugate it and it is a really important verb.

Il faut is good enough on its own but here is another form of the verb il fallait, it was necessary. Il ne fallait pas means it wasn’t necessary. In normal speech the French often forget the ‘ne’ part of a sentence so if you say fallait pas you can translate this as you shouldn’t have.

A bientôt

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

J’en ai assez

In the last blog I was looking at how to get into a conversation by agreeing or disagreeing with what has been said. You can add to this vocabulary with words like c'est scandaleux but you would have to know if you are talking about something masculine of something feminine (c'est scandaleuse). If this is a bit too much to think about then just learn c'est un scandale.

There is nothing wrong with saying you don't know something. If you say je ne sais pas then at least you have told them that you have understood what they have said, you have joined in the conversation, and they may be able to inform you, so you will need this phrase.

If you have had enough of the conversation you can say ça suffit or j’en ai assez. You may like to look at the blog for Friday 30th January entitled 'more gestures'. You can add the gesture to go along with the phrase.

A bientôt

Monday, 20 April 2009

Je ne suis pas d'accord

How do you join a French conversation? Well if someone says something that you agree with you can say je suis d'accord or je suis vraiment d'accord or je suis absolument d'accord. In the last case have a short gap between every syllable of absolument and then your case is so much more convincing. Put in a few gestures of the hand and you could be French.

If you don't agree with what is being said you could easily change the sentences to je ne suis pas d'accord. If you feel strongly try the je ne suis ab-sol-u-ment pas d'accord and don't forget the gestures. If you are not sure what to do with your hands then think what you might do in English if you were particularly animated and then triple the movement. In a heated discussion you would drop the ne. Ça va pas or je suis pas d’accord.

If you believe something then you simply say je crois que c’est le cas. I particularly like saying I don’t believe that it is the case because the French use the subjunctive. If you don’t know what the subjunctive is then I will write blogs about it in the future. The point today is that it shows a deeper level of French and you have used it correctly if you say je ne crois pas que ce soit le cas.

A bientôt

Sunday, 19 April 2009


The last couple of blogs have been on French words that we use in English. It is not about the words that are used in French and in English that have the same source, the perfect cognates or vrais amis, which are words that have the same spelling but not the same pronunciation in both languages. I have written blogs on the words ending in ion because the vast majority of these English words are also French, but this blog continues the theme of French words that we have recently started to use.

I don’t want you to be blasé about these words because you do have to learn them. Even if they sound French that doesn’t mean that they are French (but blasé is French). We don’t particularly say ‘have a good meal’ but bon appétit is very common in French and we can use it in English. K D Lang has an album called 'Ingénue'. It is not a word I often use in English to describe an innocent young woman (or ingénu for a man) but it is definitely French.

I will say toodle-oo to this subject but not before saying that à tout à l'heure, ‘I'll see you soon’ sounds like it has been corrupted to form this English word.

A bientôt

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Au restaurant

I will continue with the theme of French words used in English because it is such an easy way to increase your French vocabulary. If you are au fait (conversant) with dining in restaurants then you will understand the phrase à la carte. It means that you see what is on the menu and you choose separate items rather than a fixed-price meal. You could order un café which is a shop where you buy light meals but this time it will not be confused with coffee, and you could eat some brioche. I like sweets, particularly une crème brulée. You may also be able to buy crêpes in England but I usually call them pancakes.

I remember an advertising campaign (so it must have been good) that said j’adore le Piat d’Or. If you are old enough to remember this advert then you also managed to learn j’adore. You may even have tasted it if to go with your haute cuisine.

A bientôt

Friday, 17 April 2009

French words used in English

I have been writing some blogs in germanfornovices which are about German words that we use in English. It is not a bad idea to recognise words that we use in English because once you have recognised them then you know that you can use them in the target language. I started the German blog by asking for the German word for a coup. Of course a coup d’état is a French phrase, and I don’t think that we have a better word for coup (the German answer was Putsch).

A propos of nothing, you can say c’est la vie instead of that’s life. The French do say it as well. There are many words and phrases that we use in English but I’ll just mention one more, faux pas because I don’t want you to make any foolish mistakes.


A bientôt

Thursday, 16 April 2009

il existe des différences

Now you know the meaning of est-ce qu'il y a you can easily ask a question on any subject. All you have to say is est-ce qu’il y a des différences entre, then give your two words with an ’et’ between them. All you have to do is know two words that you want to compare. It can be any subject. It can even be two names that you don't translate like Marseille and Manchester United.

You don’t have to just use single words. You can ask est-ce qu’il y a des différences entre la circulation en France et la circulation en Angleterre. you have to choose two subjects that are similar so that you can talk about the differences.

The reply is il y a des différence or il existe des différences. If you just have a few words in French then you can have a good conversation. Even if you have no vocabulary it is still worth asking the question, because the answers that you get will not be forgotten.

A bientôt

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Est-ce qu'il y a?

How do you ask a question? Take a simple sentence like 'you are reading a book'. You can repeat the sentence but from the way you say it you can make it sound like a question. You can reverse the first two words and say 'are you reading a book? You can use interrogatives like who where when etc. In French you can ask questions in any of these ways but commonly they will also say 'is it that' and then say a simple question. Is it that you are reading a book? We would not say this in English but it is common in French so you have to learn est-ce que...

Il y a is another common expression in French that means there is or there are. Add il y a to est-ce que and you get est-ce qu'il y a. Learn this because you can use it a lot. Est-ce qu'il y a un hôtel près d'ici? Put any words in you like but if you start with is it that there is, then you have your question.

A bientôt

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Le Tréma

Have you ever wondered what you call two dots above a letter? In German you probably know that we are talking about an umlaut, but in French it is called le tréma. In German the umlaut changes pronunciation. In French le tréma also changes pronunciation but in a very distinct way. It means that the vowel with le tréma is pronounced distinctly from the letter that precedes it.

What better explanation can there be than this one? Le tréma est un signe que l'on place au-dessus des voyelles e, i, u, pour indiquer que la voyelle qui les précède immédiatement doit être prononcée séparément. If you are not sure of the full translation then look back at the first paragraph.

Examples will make this easier to understand. Do you drive a Citroën? If you have just pronounced it in the English way with two syllables then in French you have just said citron which means lemon. We do use le tréma occasionally in English, usually with words borrowed from another language. One such word is Noël. Now you know that le tréma goes on the second vowel because it separates it from the first vowel, and you can also relate the correct pronunciation with the way we say the word Noël in English. Noël Noël Noël Noël born is the King of Israel. You now know how to pronounce words contaning un tréma.

A bientôt

Monday, 13 April 2009

Les Enfants du Marais

Le Marais is an area of Paris le marais is a marsh and the region called Le Marais Poitevin is situated near La Rochelle. There is a film called Les Enfants du Marais and it certainly is not Paris and it looks to me like it is the region near La Rochelle. The film was fairly successful but if you have heard of it in England it is probably because one of the stars is Eric Cantona. Another of the female stars joined the Théâtre Sans Frontières, a touring company to play a part in Manon Lescaut. I saw this production in Kendal. It was completely in French but they made you feel that you were fluent.

After the performance there was a talk with those members of the audience who wished to stay and two of the cast members. Unfortunately it was in English but we were given the choice. I have mentioned this company in an earlier blog and you may not get chance to watch them in the theatre but you may have the possibility of seeing Eric Cantona in a DVD.

A bientôt

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Le Musée National Picasso

In my blog on Robert Doisneau I told you to look for the café where he took his photo called ‘le baiser de l’hôtel de ville’. Walk for ten minutes in a north-easterly direction and you will get to le Musée National Picasso. In fact that is the walk that I did last time I was in Paris. I am sure that there is a lot of meaning to Picasso's paintings and I quite like some of his work, but I feel his work is so much more poignant because of his association with Paris. I have also walked around Montmartre and seen his studios. Regardless of whether you like his work or not, you cannot deny that he his work is remarkable.

Le musée est un ancien hôtel particulier. Note that hôtel does not always translate as hotel but can be a mansion, and particulier does not mean particular but private. Just for good measure I will mention ancient because before the noun it means former and after the noun it means ancient or old. Une fabrique ancienne is an old factory but une ancienne fabrique is a former factory so you do need to know the difference caused by the word order.

Once you have been to le musée you can say J'adore ce musée. Si vous aimez Picasso, il faut absolument y aller ! If you don’t know the meanings of these two sentences then look them up and learn them as they are easy to adapt to any of your other interests. Here is one more phrase on le musée: ce bâtiment bien caché dans le Marais est simplement magnifique. Le Marais is a marsh.

So there is another excuse to go to Paris. See for yourself what Le Marais looks like (it isn’t a marsh). Make your own opinion on the museum and see what you think of Picasso’s work.

A bientôt

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Mes actualités par courriel

I know that this blog is called French for novices but if you take a look at French websites then you may be able to understand by context and thus learn more French. You could always use a dictionary but this may be too slow if there are many words that you don't understand. How about ‘Mes actualités par courriel’. This is an e-mail that I receive daily so you may be able to guess that courriel is e-mail. Les actualités are the news. From this I am sure that you can guess les actualités télévisées and you also learn from this that we are talking about a feminine word because of the adjectival agreement. It is so much better to learn by reading or listening that it is by getting out the grammar books, although they do have a place. Les actualités régionales also tells you that news is feminine plural and it tells you how to say regional news.

I haven’t said anything about les actualités but it may be that you only need a title to learn more French.

A bientôt

Friday, 10 April 2009

Michelangelo and photographs

It is a wonderful experience to look around le musée du Louvre. You will know about the Mona Lisa, and you may have heard of Géricault’s le Radeau de la Méduse. This painting is fairly famous but it was also used as a cover for one of the albums by the Pogues. The original heads were changed to those of the musicians. What you don’t know by looking at the album cover is how big the canvas is. It is huge. Visit the Louvre, stand well back and have a look at the work that has gone into this painting.

My memories of the Louvre include the famous sights. Some of the not so famous sights have not been forgotten, but an abiding memory is how often photographs were taken. Do you have any furniture that has been left in sunlight? It may be a coffee table or an armchair but you may know that light bleaches the colour out of many objects. The same is true of oil paints on canvas, so there are areas in the museum where photographs are not allowed. If you have canvases then you have signs that say no flash photography. The Louvre also employs staff to say the same thing. Fair enough.

So this photograph of Michelangelo's dying slave is fine. but so many people were taking photos near oil paint. I would not be surprised if the originals were in a vault and we were looking at copies. We don't deserve the originals.

Happy snapping

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Bande à Part and the Louvre

Today I will talk about a film from 1964 called ‘Bande à Part’ which was directed by Jean-Luc Godard. I write a photography blog and I have mentioned the link between photographers and historians and in Bande à Part there are also many historical links. You see Paris as it was. There are so few cars on the road and no cars parked on the side of the road. It is a different world, but there is a link with our world as we see an advert above the entrance of a theatre for Johnny Hallyday . I mentioned him in the Piaf 3 blog and it shows just how long he has been at the top of his profession.

There is also a famous scene in which the three stars run through the Louvre. They are running against the clock and there must have been hundreds of people who have tried to beat their record. This must have been so annoying for the museum staff and so frustrating for the runners because I am not sure where the race would start and finish. The Louvre is also a lot busier than it was so maybe races against the clock are just not possible.

It is also interesting to note that in the Louvre you see the same works of art that are still there today. For example, they run past David’s The Oath of the Horatii, which is also seen in the 2006 film the Da Vinci Code. There is no Louvre Pyramid but the statue, the Winged Victory of Samothrace was seen at the top of the stairs. This is a really famous statue in France, otherwise known as the Nike of Samothrace, but there is no sign of a tick logo.

A bientôt

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Piaf 3

Piaf moved a lot of people. You can tell this because her songs are still sung. They are the songs to learn if you want to join in with French community singing. She also inspired a lot of other French singers. One singer in particular was very moved by her songs. Johnny Hallyday. He is a great singer in his own right. Although he is not well known in this country, he has been compared to Elvis and is hugely popular in France. I understand that he finishes every concert with his own tribute to Piaf by singing non, je ne regrette rien. This is a song that you will have to study if you want to join in that singing.

I am not going to translate the title but even with a basic knowledge of French you can work it out. I will pick on the line ‘c'est payé, balayé, oublié’. It means that it is paid for, swept up and forgotten. Even with poetic licence this is not the sort of thing that we would say, but the French say it, and they say it with beaucoup d’émotion. Learn it, sing it and a little bit of that emotion might rub off on you.

A bientôt

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Piaf 2

In 2007 I went to the cinema to watch La Vie en Rose, the story of Edith Piaf's life. I enjoy her music and she led a very interesting life. I was particularly interested in where she was born and where she died. There is a plaque on a wall in Belleville that says she was born on the street. The film didn't mention it. I have read that news of her death was only announced when her body had been driven for hours back to Paris, as les vedettes only died in Paris. Where did she die? The film didn't mention it.

I didn't get the life and death questions answered in the film. It may be a biography but there is also artistic licence so even if these events had featured they would still not have been made clear. What is clear is that there were many moments in her life which were cause for regret - her very public affair, his death in a plane crash, her car crash and addiction to morphine. The full list is a lot longer but she managed to have a hit with a song called 'non je ne regrette rien'. It is an ambitious title but the song was a great success.

A bientôt

Monday, 6 April 2009


I think that every evening at the Open University summer school ended in singing. It sounds like a holiday but if you take the view that work is pleasure then every day is a holiday. I have written about French singers that you may or may not have heard of. However a good starting point for anyone who wants to join in the singing is to learn songs from singers that you have heard of.

Edith Piaf is a good place to start and this blog is about the song with the name of a recent film, 'La Vie en Rose'. We have an expression in English about looking at life through rose-tinted glasses and this is what the song is about. It may even lead to another song about regretting nothing. The first line is 'des yeux qui font baiser les miens' and it immediately takes you to the heart of this love song. If you don't have much time then go straight to the chorus, le refrain. In this blog I will just look at the first part as it tells you so much.

Quand il me prend dans ses bras, il me parle tout bas, je vois la vie en rose.

Take the first word, quand. You learn that the d is pronounced like a t when a vowel follows it. You don’t need to learn grammatical rules, learn songs! In this way you get to hear native speakers pronounce the words. Be careful with pronunciation in songs because the French sing final vowels when they don’t say them. Sing ‘rose’ and it is two syllables, say ‘rose’ and it is one. You learn forever how to say ‘he takes’ and that must be better than conjugating verbs. You learn the words for in a low voice or a whisper. Finally you learn the context for the name of the film.

A bientôt

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Le Forestier et Trenet

I am following the last blog by writing about the soirées musicales that took place on my Open University summer school. There are so many memories because different people would come to me and ask me to play different songs. One person sang a song by Maxime le Forestier called San Francisco. He must have sung this particular song at least three times in the week. Another student who knew quite a lot about French music, had not heard about le Forestier. We sang two or three of his songs during the week and he enjoyed them so much that he went to the local Fnac to buy one of his CDs.

We were free from tutorials on the Wednesday afternoon and a group of us went to Arromanches to see the artificial harbour, but on seeing the sea, one of my fellow students burst into song, la mer by Charles Trenet. You may not know the name but you know the song because it has been sung in English so many times. It is worth learning the French lyrics so you too can join in.

A bientôt

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Joe Dassin

In my last blog, Brassens 2, I mentioned that I was motivated by singing the songs of Brassens with French people. My brother has a house in France and I was thinking of evenings that I had spent with him and his neighbours. I was also thinking of evenings that I have spent as a member of French Circles in Lancashire which includes a number of soirées musicales.

Speak to French people or any Francophile will do. Ask them their favourite singers or actors or authors, but for this blog let’s stick to singers. I have been introduced to many great French singers by personal recommendation. Look out for Joe Dassin. One of my favourite songs is Les Champs Elysées. It is such a catchy tune and is well-loved by the French. I was in Paris and I took a trip on a bateau-mouche. When we were nearest to Les Champs Elysées this was the music in the background.

I spent a week in Caen on an Open University summer school. We had to speak French throughout the week. In the evenings I took my guitar to the bar and many students and teachers would join the singing, but I would think that Joe Dassin’s song was the most popular song of the week.

A bientôt

Friday, 3 April 2009

Un poisson d'avril

I have been looking at my French desk diary, well it has a French word and a French phrase for each day. Sometimes the phrase is relevant to the date and today, the first of April, the phrase is ‘tu m’as cru, mais ce n’était qu’une blague!’ There is so much to say about this sentence. Do you know how to say I believe? It is je crois from the verb croire. It is unusual to say the past participle of croire, believed, but here is an example, tu m’as cru.

Ne..que is a negative which is a little bit more difficult than the usual negatives because we say ‘only’. So we have to go through two stages to translate it. We read the word ‘ne’ and we think ‘not’. Say the sentence again slowly and you translate it as ‘it was not..’ but get used to waiting for the second part of the negative ‘que’. Then you have to change your translation to ‘it was only’ or ‘it was just’. Use ne...que as often as you can and it will become second nature to know this translation.

It is le premier avril, and if you are an April fool then you are une victim d’un poisson d’avril. Do remember that fish is poisson and double s is pronounced s. One s as in poison is pronounced z. Make sure that you get that right when you are in a restaurant.

A bientôt

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Georges Brassens 2

I came across Brassens when I was doing an Open University course. Part of the course was to listen to his song Chanson Pour L'Auvergnat. It gave the lyrics and it certainly opened my eyes to translation. I was starting to learn French at a deeper level. There are many idioms and phrases, some of which were no longer in current use, except when the French listen to (or sing) this song.

I remember that the next Brassens song that I came across, I think it was in the same course, was Les Copains D'Abord. As I mentioned last time, the style of guitar playing was very similar to the way I play and both songs are easy to perform. If you look at a Brassens video on YouTube you may not get the same sense of enthusiasm that I found by playing his songs but my main motivator was the expression on the faces of some French people when they joined in with me and sang the songs of Brassens and others. They were very animated, almost like une bd (bande dessinée). This ambience really is a motivator to learn French.

One last point before I leave Brassens. He wrote a song, Supplique pour être enterré à la plage de Sète. This may sound like a strange title because your body should get washed away if you are buried in a beach, but I understand that this is the name of the cemetery in Sète.

A bientôt

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Georges Brassens

My favourite French singer is Georges Brassens. In the 1970s I learned to play classical guitar and when I got fed up with learning the classical style I would take a rest by learning some folk music. I don't sing except in the style of one English singer called Jake Thackray whom I remember because of his musical interludes in the TV programme 'That's Life'.

Many years later I discovered Georges Brassens and I found that these two singers had a similar style. So I Can sing like Brassens as well. Jake was a great admirer of Brassens and described him as 'the best of the very best of the poet singers'. Listen to Jake say these words at the start of the song Brother Gorilla on YouTube. The song is almost a direct translation of the Brassens song Le Gorille. It is a song that can be viewed at a number of levels. It cetainly condemns the French judicial system but it is also a comical song. I particulary like the guitar style of Brassens (and Thackray) as I can have a go at reproducing the sound of the guitar and the sound of them singing.

I must mention the pronunciation of this singers name. If you have the French word en it is pronounced like the English word 'on' said with a nasal intonation. However Brassens rhymes with the Enlish word once without the 'w' sound. It is hard to talk about my favourite French singer if his name does not follow the usual rules of pronunciation but I hope you have it now.

A bientôt